Report from the 2011 “National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality” (NARTH) Conference
By Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.
As an invited speaker at this year’s NARTH Conference (October 4-6, Phoenix, AZ), I was gratified to see the meeting energized by a strong spirit of camaraderie. The enthusiastic participants were clearly grateful to have discovered a place like NARTH where education and support can be found in an otherwise hostile culture and academic environment.
My first presentation—The History of Reparative Therapy—was intended to remind my fellow professionals that reorientation therapy is not a new idea, but is the extension of a long academic and clinical tradition beginning with Freud. In my speech, I reviewed the work of the many eminent thinkers of the past who have done this work, including Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Melanie Klein, Otto Fenichel, Anna Freud, Charles Socarides and Irving Bieber. (If these professionals were practicing today, their contributions would not be welcome within the American Psychological Association). I believed it very important for my fellow clinicians to be aware that reorientation therapy has a long history. Needless to say, soon after the 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic Manual, there was a politically imposed freeze on the development of reparative theory and practice, but in the early 1990’s, a renewal of this work began, which gained momentum through the establishment of NARTH.
Next, Dr. Laura Haynes and I did a presentation highlighting an exchange of letters between a committee of NARTH members and then-APA (American Psychological Association) President Melba Vasquez, Ph.D. We NARTH members had at first been hopeful that Dr. Vasquez would be sympathetic to the cause of ex-gays, as one of her promises, when she took office that year, was to include disenfranchised minorities within the Association. Her letters, which were at first supportive and encouraging, soon began to reveal a pattern of avoidance, deflection and obfuscation. We asked her to review a packet of scientific literature that supported our claims, but she would not look at the studies herself—instead, referring us to a committee of gay activists to do the analysis. We attempted to explain that gay activists would have no interest in our cause, and that they did not represent the commitments of the clients we serve, but at that point, all useful dialogue ended.
I also had the opportunity to interview American Psychological Association Past-President Nick Cummings, Ph.D. and ask him some clinical questions (soon to be posted on this web site). Dr. Cummings was NARTH’s Keynote Speaker, and he had given a rousing opening address, telling the participants not to be intimidated--to make our work known everywhere we can within academia and the culture. Dr. Cummings spoke about his own long career as a psychologist in the San Francisco area, working with many homosexually oriented clients, most of whom did not seek sexual-orientation change, but some of whom did. Dr. Cummings is a true “liberal” in the sense that he supports those individuals who do not want to change, but in the cases of those who do, he works to help them achieve their personal goals.
Dr. Ben Kaufman and I established a dialogue with a few of the gay protesters outside the conference; although we will certainly never agree on everything, we were able to correct some false assumptions they had about our work—i.e., that we were opposed to gay rights, that we thought clients could simply “pray away the gay,” and that we pressured clients to abandon their personal worldviews.
Later in the conference, I offered a Clinical Supervision session for therapists, who were invited to present their problem cases for analysis and discussion. There are many therapists who are professionally committed to helping same-sex-attracted clients, but they have no training, due to the absence of such education in academic training programs. This provided an opportunity for me to explain the newer reparative-therapy techniques that we are finding to be more effective than ever before, achieving better results in a shorter time period.